Away from home – 5 English youngsters plying their trade abroad

More and more youngsters are finding their feet away from their home country.

Football Whispers

Islanders through and through, English players have never travelled abroad in great numbers.

Part of this is because of the extraordinary strength of the English league system, which has been able to support far more players at a far better level than most nations on the planet.

However, more and more English players are upping sticks and travelling over the Channel in search of first-team football and high-quality coaching. Our friends at Football Whispers take a look at where these youngsters have ended up.

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It’s almost always youngsters who are the ones moving abroad. English football might have room for a lot of players, but the step from promising youngster to first-team player still seems to be missing for players who aren’t believed to be physically mature enough for the Championship or lower.

Perhaps it’s not the physicality at all, but the style of play and quality of team-mates — the beautiful through-balls that midfielders are bred to make these days need someone to get on the end of them, after all.

Jadon Sancho

The poster-boy for moving abroad, Sancho has been involved in almost as many goals as he’s had birthdays (13 in all competitions, at 18 years of age).

Dortmund, with its fast-paced style of play, suit the young winger well and mean that when Sancho comes on late in games — he’s come on as a substitute more often than he’s started — he’s playing against tired legs.

His success this season is justification for his decision to leave Manchester City in 2017. Although he might have missed the historic Centurions season at the Etihad, it would be hard to believe that Sancho would have had as much first-team football at City as he’s had so far at Dortmund.

And that’s the main thing for young players — first-team experience.

Reiss Nelson

Another 18-year-old making his way in Germany, Arsenal’s Reiss Nelson is on loan at Hoffenheim.

Hoffenheim are sixth, only a point behind Bayern Munich, and Nelson is on fire, scoring six in seven appearances, another example of a player who’s getting first-team football abroad.

At Arsenal, he’d made just three league appearances, although their Europa League run gave him the chance to get a few run-outs.

Patrick Roberts

Like Sancho, Roberts has also come through the Manchester City youth system. Unlike Sancho, though, he’s only on loan at Girona (a partner club of City) in La Liga.

Although there have been rumours that Roberts may cut his loan spell short, he’s made two starts and six substitute appearances for the Catalan club, who are currently ninth in La Liga.

Girona was clearly seen as an upgrade on Celtic, where Roberts spent the past two-and-a-half months on loan and becoming a regular feature in the Scottish champions’ side.

The uncertainty over his future in Spain might be a sign of how difficult it is to choose the right club for a youngster to go to, trying to find a delicate balance between a testing environment and one in which they’ll regularly play.

Ronaldo Vieira

Although Vieira was raised in Portugal, he’s played for both the England Under-20s and Under-21s, and moved to Sampdoria this summer for around £6million.

He’d previously been a fixture in the Leeds United side for two years, but has so far struggled to find his place in Italy, where he’s made just three appearances in all competitions.

All of these have come in the league, where Sampdoria lie in 12th.

Sheyi Ojo

A Liverpool player since 2011, when he was the subject of a bidding war between the Merseyside club and Chelsea. Now at Stade Reims in Ligue 1, his travels to France are the latest in a strong of loan spells that has encompassed Wigan, Wolves and Fulham.

Like Roberts, he’s made two starts and six sub appearances in the league so far this season and Reims, like Girona, are ninth in the league.

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There are a smattering of other young Englishmen across Europe’s top leagues — like Marcus McGuane on Barcelona’s books, or Keanan Becketts at Borussia Monchengladbach — but they’re struggling to make an impact at these clubs.

The balance to find the right club is just as tricky abroad as it is at home. Players, particularly youngsters, need to find the perfect harmony between good coaching, good competition, and good amounts of playing time. Foreign leagues widen the options, but the step between youth teams and first team seems like it remains a difficult one.

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